Garrett Jones has made a few adjustments at the plate recently. After struggling in the month of May, where he hit just .206/.231/.397 over 22 games, Jones has been swinging a hot bat for the Pirates in June. Over eight games this month, Jones has already belted out two home runs, which matched his total from all of May, and connected for a double while driving in six. Those long balls came on back-to-back starts against National League Central rival Milwaukee Brewers.
“Just relaxing a little bit more, staying up the middle,” Jones said of his adjustments. “Just seeing the ball, letting the ball travel. What’s been key has been developing a routine before each game. Just doing the same thing before every game. It’s kind of put me in that same mindset of just going over every point to make sure where I’m at is nice and comfortable so I don’t get into a bad habit or change my swing, or something changing. Just doing that, having a routine on a day-to-day basis has helped with the consistency.”
Jones admitted that when you’re not giving everyday playing time, it can be hard to break out of a slump. Jones saw a stretch where he went just 2-for-30 (.067) in mid-May.
“It makes it a little more difficult,” Jones said. “You work in the cage, but it’s nothing like a game. That’s something that you have to deal with as a player. You try to find your swing when you’re not playing in the cage, really work on your timing. When you get that chance to play, try and transfer it over. When you’re in there everyday, your timing is good, but when you’re not, you really got to battle and key in on that timing and be ready for that fastball.”
Jones’ hot bat is just one of several that has also heated up for the club. While the pitching has held the Bucs in the games for the majority of the season, it seems like the team has started to click on all cylinders. The starters have been solid, the bullpen has been lights out, and the bats have hit a combined .259 average, which is ranked eighth best in the National League during the month of June.
The Pirates also are starting to get noticed for their ‘surprise’ season. They entered game action on Tuesday tied for first in the National League Central and have gone 15-8 in their last 23.
“I think of a lot of guys are definitely hitting the ball better,” Jones said. “We just kept working. We kept grinding out. I just feel like a lot of guys are starting to turn that corner. I was hitting the ball better, Pedro [Alvarez'], [Neil] Walker and [Jose Tabata] Tabby, and everyone collectively as a team, we’re starting to have much better at-bats.”
The Pirates have four active players hitting over a .300 clip in June, while Alex Presley and Andrew McCutchen have hit just a few points shy of that mark. During this month, Jones has hit for a .320/.308/.600 line.
“He’s in a much better place,” Manager Clint Hurdle said of Jones. “He’s 6’4”, 235, we want him to hit like it. Stand tall at the plate. Just a little flex in his knees and get his hands out in front of him. That has been the challenge since I’ve been here to get him to do consistently. I think he’s starting to understand and reap the benefits of, I just need to do a few couple things. I don’t need to do 12 things at the plate. I need to stay tall. I need to see the ball good. I need to get my hands working in front.”
“The other thing, he doesn’t need to try and hit every ball in the river. I try to encourage these guys to be good hitters with power, not power hitters. Hopefully he’s buying into that a little bit.”